Are you going to be interviewing job applicants soon?

On looking at some terrific work** on racism in the justice system, I realized there’s something a lot of us may not realize. 

So here’s something that you want to watch out for:  your experience may confirm your biases, but not for a good reason.  And the not-good reason is that biases, even ones we are completely unaware of, can shape our experience to a remarkable extent.  

One of the interesting ways this works out shows how unexpected the effects may be:  if you have the stereotype of black men as dangerous, then the darker a man’s color, the more dangerous he will probably seem. 

One thing this means is that if you go into an interview with thoughts like “I have an open mind and I am perfectly prepared to find out that minority candidates are among the best,” then you may be deceiving yourself.  Open minds are very hard to come by.  Just open your eyes and look and you may well just see what you unconsciously expect to see.

It’s hard for me to guess what cues might heighten biases, and so what interviewees should avoid.  However, it does look to me as though one should ignore any thoughts like, “I am going to demonstrate by my creative independence by not dressing like a cookie cutter academic.”  But I could be wrong!

** The work I’ve been looking at is Jennifer Eberhardt’s; here the link to her lab’s publication page at Stanford.  Some time ago, we mentioned videos of lectures by her  here and here.  There’s also a lot about vision and expectations in Simon and Cabris’ The Invisible Gorilla.

The Assange rape charges (newsflash: nonconsensual sex is rape)

From reading most news reports, and even (sigh) from reading Naomi Wolff, you’d think Assange was being accused of something that’s not really rape, something only those crazy Swedes could call ‘rape’. This is not true. One of the charges is that a woman agreed to have sex with him on condition that he wore a condom. According to the charge, he did not do so, and he failed to tell her this. Protected sex and unprotected sex are different sex acts, and it’s rather easy to see why consent to the former does not constitute consent to the latter. It may be that many jurisdictions don’t recognise this, but they certainly should. The other charge is that another woman agreed to have sex with him and then asked him to stop when the condom broke, and he didn’t. If true, this is a case where consent was withdrawn– that is, consent was no longer present. The sex was NONCONSENSUAL. Moreover, the sex act was REFUSED. It’s not just those wacky Swedes who would think that’s rape.

How best can we reduce the number of students coming to the UK?

Cameron’s coalition wants your views. Cameron et al. want to reduce the amount of migrants to the UK, and have identified international students as a problem. Rather than coming, studying, and then buggering off back home again, some of them come here wanting to bring their families with them (shock), to work whilst studying (gasp), and some even arrive with a view to settling here once they finish (horror). One of the problems is that some of those pesky foreigners aren’t studying on degree level courses, and can’t even speak English properly. (They’re called ‘language courses’, Dave.) Whilst Cameron et al. want to continue attracting the brightest and the best students to our universities (and then ensure they leave promptly afterwards), they want to tighten restrictions to ensure it’s mainly these people who can come. In essence, they want to make student visas harder to obtain. You can read more from Cameron et al. here. I’ve skimmed the documents – I’m already late for work – but I couldn’t see any economic analysis of the costs and benefits of these foreign students. I can tell you two things, however, from working at a Russell Group University: (i) foreign students are a big source of university income; (ii) whilst Cameron et al. want to continue attracting students to such universities, the current visa requirements caused problems for three students that I know of, this year alone. They eventually arrived, but missed over half the term, due to visa complications. That might not seem like a lot of students, but a philosophy department isn’t a big place.